Educators in the Birmingham-Hoover, Ala., area are joining others across the nation in finding that iPods and other MP3 players are more than just a high-tech toy, the Birmingham News reports. Increasingly, students are using the portable devices in classrooms and libraries to listen to books, watch documentaries, and record podcasts, among other educational uses. In Hoover, iPods already are in use in classrooms throughout the district, but they’ll become more widespread in August when a $2.7 million technology plan is implemented in elementary schools. That plan, approved by the school board this month, includes purchasing two new iPods for every elementary classroom. Suzan Brandt, an instructional technology specialist for Hoover City Schools, said teachers were concerned at first that students wouldn’t take care of the iPods, but they have found the opposite to be true. "Students value the technology, and they value the opportunity to have it," she said. Technology also helps bring the outside world into the classroom, Brandt said. For example, students can download a podcast made by kids in Scotland, and they feel they’ve talked to the students, she said, adding that some teachers use portable music players for professional development, too…

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